John Howe



There are times when you blithely take on a job thinking that it’s just a matter of doing it, forgetting that with the day job, any extra work is, well, really a whole lot more than you planned. However, when it’s done, and when the 5 or 6 months have passed between handing in the work and seeing the book announced, you’ve had time to forget how hard it seemed, and you’re ready to do it again.

Pictura is a brand-new series of books from the wonderful publisher Templar (you know, the ones who brought you Dragonology and all the -ology books). Pictura is a colouring book, but the kind of colouring book of which you’ve never seen the like. I believe it truly explores the whys and wherefores of children’s desire to fill huge quantities of colouring books with wax crayon masterpieces and makes that available to us as adults. Have you really ever wondered why colouring books are so popular? Why it is that children spend hours and hours hunched over them, or on their tummies surrounded by crayolas, why paint-by-number kits remain eternal best-sellers in craft shops?

Well, don’t mind me, I spend all my time wondering about these things, as they contain the interrogations we have about the interpretations of the world, how we acquire our vision of the world, how that same world can become a largely flat backdrop to our lives, or an intensely rich dimension which we are continually entering and emerging from.

I believe that it also concerns our visual literacy. We live in a literate society (non deplaise à those who bemoan the decline of literacy in general, the Ancients were complaining about it already, and those moderns who cite the heights of the 19th century as a shining beacon of literary excellence conveniently forget that only a quarter of the population could actually read at all) that requires that we be literate on so many levels, and it’s easy to neglect visual literacy. As ever, much is made now of image overload, we are bombarded by images, there are too many images (you can hear about every variation on the refrain) etc., etc.

There cannot be “too many images”, that’s like saying there are too many books in libraries, but we can feel that way simply because we don’t know how to read them, to understand and analyze them, to make sense of them. Now, it’s easy enough to write wonderfully savant articles on all that, but they are still words. Understanding imagery is about participating in some way. It’s why children colour inside the lines (or not). It’s why teens make slavish copies of the artists they admire (all the while fending off, if they can, well-meaning but painfully under-informed professors who berate them for not expressing themselves in some “original” way). You can understand a lot by doing something. Get a package of coloured pencils. Try it out. I think you’ll be very surprised at what you’ll learn. It’s available on pre-order with amazon.

Or, if you prefer, there are a number of places where you’ll be able to follow the collection:
A Pictura website, (currently under construction). A Twitter  page, also just setting up: or Twitter: @picturaline
As well, Pictura creator Nghiem Ta is on Twitter: or Twitter: @nghiemta
No, you won’t find me on Twitter, or at least for now. I can barely keep up with things like putting stamps on envelopes… so my leap into the 21st century isn’t slated to happen quite yet.







In case you were still puzzling over the acronym in the title, the Extended Edition of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, will be coming out in November. Alan Lee and I did the illustrations for the Gift Box, which occupied a few weekends a couple of months ago. I’m not entirely sure exactly what’s inside, though the Behind the Scenes people have been working incredibly hard on putting together DVD extras to match and even surpass what they did for the Lord of the Rings. You can’t see a lot of the box artwork in these images, but they were all I could find for the time being. More as the release date approaches. You can find it already on amazon, though.







I’m including a little text written by an illustrator. I have taken to collecting the words of those whose profession is making pictures, and find these to be particularly lovely, intuitive and even revolutionary for the time. They could almost have been written today. They were written nearly a century ago, by Edmund Dulac, as an introduction for Christmas: Pictures by Children, published in 1922, by J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd.







Otherwise, we still have a movie to deliver, and the next few months promise to be intensely busy. Perhaps even busier. Newsletters may have to be put on hold for a bit, but hopefully not for too long.